Student-Led Parent/Teacher Conferences
Parent Teacher Conferences usually come around during report card distribution at the end of a grading period. Having a Student-Led Conference gives your child the opportunity to discover their areas of strength and need.
After years of conferencing both with and without students being present I see strengths in both ideas.If your child is present they should not be surprised by the report card and test scores being discussed. In fact, a student-led conference can be must more revealing than a teacher-led conference.
A student-led conference is prepared something like this. I have saved papers throughout the grading period in each subject. The papers are not all “A” papers. They are chosen randomly. Usually tests are in the folder and tougher assignments. Lots of student writing is available for their review.
I give students the folder of work and ask them to organize it. I give them paperclips if they need them. The kids organize the work in their own way. I want them to see the work and recommend they pay attention to the dates of the work to see if the newer work shows growth.
As they are working on their folders I call each student up and show them their grades – still in the gradebook. I purposefully keep the grades in the gradebook not on the actual report card because I want their input on the grade and possible comment to go with the grade.
Sometimes a student has to admit that they just didn’t do the work. Didn’t finish and turn it in for a grade. I can’t allow them to dig out the work and turn it in late. A lot of teachers allow students to dig out months worth of papers (partially done, wrinkled from being stuffed in the backpack or desk) and the teacher spends hours and hours correcting the work so the student’s grade goes up. That enables the student to do the same thing the next year. I simply say no.
A lot of parents think this is too “hard-nosed”. I am the professional. I have done this many times and have learned that in the end the student does the same thing time after time, year after year. Until they are caught by a high school teacher and the grade really matters.
Accountability belongs to the student – not the parent.
Students who do not put their name on their paper – are reminded over and over on each assignment – and simply don’t do it because they don’t really have to. Someone will ask them if it is their paper and will write it for them because we want all work to be turned in and graded. We need to give a zero on those papers until the children learn to follow simple directions and put their names on their papers.
When your child starts leading the conference you will be surprised at what they say. I always am. Even if I have spoken to them and heard what they think, it changes when they are talking to their parents.
Even in a student-led conference the parents need ask the child to leave the room so they can talk behind their backs. You need adult time to talk about student’s strengths and weaknesses. Adults need to create a plan to help children accomplish the goals that the adults decide are important. Sometimes the plan is appropriately shared with the child while other times it is kept between adults.
If you do not have a time to talk without the child present you do not have the opportunity to say, “My son just won’t read every night.” Because you don’t want to embarrass your child.
When the student finishes their presentation it is the parents who decide if the child should remain for the rest of the conference or not. I recommend that before the conference is done the adults talk without the child. Children need to know that they are not making all the decisions regarding their education. Adults are responsible to guide children and sometimes topics should remain between adults.
Some topics are touchy subjects that will embarrass children. A good example is the conference I have via telephone prior to taking children to the local Environmental School for a week. I ask, “Does he/she wet the bed?” “Do they have any medication?” “Do they have nightmares?” “Is there anything I need to know that will help your child stay in a cabin with eight other people?” I think some of these topics are sensitive subjects.
There are some other things that might be issues for some children. For instance, maybe they are being bullied but they begged you not to tell the teacher. YOU need to tell the teacher and discuss ways to help your child. Not in front of the child. If your child is embarrassed to wear their glasses it will be helpful to work with the teacher and help your child.
Remember you are on the same team.
You want the same things.
You are not the same people and will not have the same ideas – so parents must teach the teachers what they expect. And, parents must listen and learn what the teacher expects.